Mouths [Rhubarb]Mature

"Jon. No."

"Ren, please. No one else has time-"

"Yes, thank you for reminding me I don't have a job. No."

I'd been irritable since lunch had brought food and Berny down to the abandoned operating theatre that was my current place of residence. Berny had brought the news of more people, children, sharing this hospital with us. But there were no more supplies than usual, so everything had to be cut, halved, split into what inevitably meant less to eat and not enough of anything for anyone. Lunch hadn't had quite enough to it, so whilst I wasn't what you could call hungry, I was still irritable.

Jon telling me that, because I didn't have a proper job, I would be assigned five children, had not helped my mood.

"Come on, Ren. You have to."

I spun the chair round and glared up at him. "No, Jon, I do not have to do anything. Least of all look after children."

One of the girls who looked about four tuggeed on my sleeve. "Wenwen?"

"What?!" I yelled, turning on her. She shrank away, cowering behind my brother. I realised that with my facial scars still bright and raw, I must have looked scary to a four year old.

"I need to toilet, Jojo," she whispered to Jon.

"Ren, please. Be reasonable about this," he told me. "C'mon, Jenny, I'll show you the toilet."

"Reasonable? What's reason got to do with it? Zombies, Jon! Reason's dead and gone!" I shouted at his back, laughing derisively, then manically, then falling into silent sobs.

Reason, where art thou?


Later, Berny came down to see me.

"You okay?" she asked. Stupid question. Of course not. I told her as much.

"What's wrong?"

"What's wrong? Oh, nothing, no, nothing at all," I said bitterly, my voice thick with sarcasm.

She just looked at me.

"Berny, look at me. I'm a disfigured cripple in a world gone mad. How can it be okay?"

"You're hungry and tired. Go to sleep, Rhu. Everything'll be better in the morning."

I bit back a sharp retort. She was right. I was hungry, and I was tired. What with the population of this hospital nearly doubling, there wasn't enough food, and sleep was an elusive creature to catch when your leg kept moving and hurting. It always hurt. Painkillers were few and far between, and had to be rationed. I got one Advil pill a day. American drugs were still strange to me, even after five years here. I'd asked for brufen one morning and been asked what it was. I was never particularly coordinated in the mornings.

"Here," said Berny, checking around furtively, then handing me a box of tablets. The cardboard was a little torn and water had obscured the brand name and most of the warnings. "Alex got these on a supply run today. They're some kind of combined sleeping pill and painkiller. Should help." Alex doubled as the cook and a supply runner.

For what seemed like the first time in a long while, I felt a smile tug at my lips. "Thanks, Berny."

Now I had to go and face the prospect of sleeping in the same room as thirty odd young children. Well, tomorrow morning was going to be fun.

The End

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